Book Review: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Parable of the Sower

Let’s talk about Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler.

Short Review of Parable of the Sower

Read this book. This is some of the most important climate fiction you’ll ever read. It’s profound, prophetic, deeply intersectional, and an absolutely riveting read.

Full Review of Parable of the Sower

Parable of the Sower is a groundbreaking tale of survival and transformation in the midst of the collapse of society.

The main character, Lauren Olamina, is a strong young Black teenager. At the start of the novel, she lives with her family in what’s left of a gated community in Southern California. The surrounding cityscape is overrun by poverty and violence. When the community is overrun by violent attackers, Olamina survives, but is left to fend for herself. She goes on a physical and spiritual journey, meeting new friends and encountering new dangers along the way in her search for a safe community to call home. Her journey is shaped by a new religion she’s forming called Earthseed, the main premise of which is that God is change.

The dystopian setting of Parable of the Sower is amazingly relevant for a book written thirty years ago. The effects of climate change, the racism, the misogyny, the economic disparities, the political leaders using religious dogma and “make America great again” rhetoric to mobilize a fanatical following, all ring true to American society’s recent and ongoing experiences with “Make America Great Again,” QAnon, Trumpism, and related white nationalist and nascent fascist movements. The continuation and acceleration of the climate crisis also plays a major and prescient role in the novel, especially given the fact that climate change was an uncommon theme in fiction at the time of the novel’s writing.

Some of the details of the 2020s aren’t precisely what the author envisioned, but the spirit of the story is so close to reality that the resemblance is uncanny.

The main character’s journey is also simultaneously heart wrenching and inspiring. Olamina loses her family and home to horrific violence. But does she give up? No. She doesn’t just survive; she leads other survivors in creating a thriving community inspired by the idea that God is change.

This is still some of the most intersectional climate fiction ever published. It’s about race, gender, class, ability, community, and beyond. Olamina’s hyperempathy serves as a powerful metaphor for the suffering of oppressed peoples and the visceral longing for justice and peace.

Parable of the Sower is at the top of my bookshop. It should be at the top of your reading list.

I wrote a longer review of Parable of the Sower years ago. I’m revisiting it today because it’s such an important book, and because I’ve finally started reading the sequel, Parable of the Talents. I’ll review that one too when I finish it. Spoiler Alert: So far, it’s just as impressive as the original.

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